Monday, March 14, 2005

Now at Bat: The Mighty Economides.

Michael Economides is a Professor of Petroleum Engineering at the University of Houston. He is also co-author of the book "The Color of Oil" and is interviewed on CNBC fairly regularly.

He was on CNBC last week and made the following comments/observations:

Venezuela - Hugo Chavez is a much graver threat to America's energy security than Saddam Hussein ever was. He's got one motivation, hurt the US, and he's playing it to the hilt. For example, they could sell Citgo (a refiner and retailer owned by Venezuela with a decent size presence in the US) and then turn around and sell their heavy crude oil to China, letting the Citgo assets rust. The Chinese are flush with cash and desperate for oil, but there is a shortage of VLCCs (very large crude carriers - big tanker ships) that would be available to carry this oil.

The Perfect Storm - This is the first time since 2000 that we have reached supply/demand equilibrium in oil, and the equation is getting worse. OPEC has no excess capacity currently, though they could work on increasing production, Russia has problems, Venezuela.., the Saudi oil minister abondoning any nonsense about $25 oil.

Some direct quotes:

"There are still people - quote unquote - analysts, that are still talking about $25 oil, which is proposterous. I would say, let's get used to $50 - $60, and I think sky's the limit. You realize, there are all sorts of things that can happen that can shoot the price overnight to the numbers that you were talking about a few minutes ago." [They were talking about $80 oil with the guest host earlier.]

"The Russia situation has reached Greek tragi-comedy. They just make the rules as they go. They're fighting amongst themselves, right now the two national oil companies, Rosneft and Gazprom, fighting over the remmnants of Yukos, which Putin's own chief advisor called 'the theft of the century'. So you start looking at the Russia situation, and it has all the makings for a disaster."

"It's possible that we can actually take a whiff of $80 oil, but I would say, let's accept the $50 - $60 as the range that I think I am going to see for quite a while."

[Note: I've been following oil closely for about a year now. The people I choose to quote are the people who have generally been correct in their predictions over that span. There are people calling for oil to come down, but they have generally been wrong over the past year. When I hear the folks I have been tracking talking about oil going lower, I will post that. ]